Snoopers Charter Could Have Harmful Effect on Smaller Businesses

Previously we’ve reported on the Snooper Charter (the official name of which is the Investigatory Power Bill). The focus for the snooper charter has been on large companies, with groups like Facebook and Microsoft coming out with some observations over just how bad an impact the charter might have on companies working in the UK. Even  the NSA’s ex-director warned that it could “kill people”. Worst may be yet to come, with Theresa May clarifying not only the extent, but also that the Snooper Charter could cost a lot more than initially thought.

Theresa May stated the cost of the snooper charter may, in fact, exceed the original estimate of 240 million pounds. With companies like EE and Vodaphone saying that the cost to them may be that figure alone in order to meet the bill’s requirements.

One of the initial thoughts regarding the bill was that small-scale internet providers might be excluded from the requirement, but this isn’t the case. The defence and security industries, alongside the information commissioner, asked for a “sunset clause”. This clause would mean that after five to seven years the bill would be revisited because of the rapid pace of technological change, May rejected this thought saying that the bill was fit for a rapidly changing world and was “technology neutral”.

An issue brought up by groups like Facebook and Microsoft was the dealing of extra-territorial warrants. In the current bill, a notice could be provided to a company with employees in the UK for data stored abroad, a topic which has been at the forefront of data request issues for years now.

It was then asked if the government would have a limit on the finances available, the answer to which was that they were going to work on a “cost recovery basis”. This means that  companies could seek back the cost for installing the hefty systems needed and that they will “have reasonable cost recovery when we require these companies to provide these capabilities”. Not only could the bill mean worrying levels of powers and data stored about people, but it also seems like we will also be footing the bill for it.

‘Snooper Charter’ Causes Issues With Google, Microsoft, Twitter And Others

The Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill for short) goes by another name, the Snooper Charter. The bill is aimed to help extend and update the government’s legislation surrounding their surveillance powers, this extension though is gaining more than a little public notice with more than a few people expressing how worried they are about these new powers. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo and Twitter can now be added to this list of people that have issues with the current bill.

Listing their concerns, they state they understand the responsibilities of Governments to protect people and privacy, they continue by saying that they believe a legal framework can protect people, companies and the Government. They cite their membership to the “Reform Government Surveillance” (RGS) coalition before continuing in saying that any surveillance must be lawful, necessary, transparent and proportionate.

Current proposals look to force ISP’s to retain at least a years worth of data about sites you visit, an action that has raised concerns by ex-NSA director Bill Binney. The primary areas that they wished to bring into notice are the conflicting laws between the proposal and international law. Continuing on to state that an international framework, as suggested by Sir Nigel Sheinwald, should be established to help with issues and prevent the use of warrants on people based within the UK to attempt to extract information from a branch of the company in a different country.

One of the main issues is encryption with digital data and the bill states that companies will have “obligations relating to the removal of electronic protection applied by a relevant operator to any communication or data”, basically saying that any protection you have on your devices companies will need to be able to remove. This didn’t go down well in America when the government ordered Apple to unencrypt a phone while China’s new law forces companies to provide them with encryption keys.

I recommend reading through their concerns if you are interested and keep listening out for more information as it develops on the “Snooper Charter”, as no matter how you use technology, this law will impact everyone.

Dell CEO Says “Post-PC” Era has been Great for PCs

Despite what the folks at Apple are thinking, it looks like there are still plenty of companies that believe the PC market is still pretty vibrant. CEO, founder and owner of Dell, Michael Dell has come out and expressed his confidence in the PC. This is in stark contrast to Apple CEO Tim Cook who said there is no reason to buy PCs anymore.

Despite some doom and gloom about shipments, Dell notes that since Apple first declared the PC “dead” half a decade ago, PC shipments have largely grown. With the continued innovation in both performance and aesthetics, Dell believes that newer PCs are going to be more attractive to consumers than ever. While there are now many devices competing with the PC for consumer’s attention, it just means that PC makers will have to step up their game and face their competition head on.

On a separate note, Dell spoke out against the Snooper’s Charter being contemplated in the UK. On this note, Dell and Cook are on the same page, both adamantly opposed against the surveillance law. Dell noted that backdoors would allow both legitimate and illegitimate access to systems and are fundamentally flawed. Even with many experts and officials already speaking out against the wide range of new powers being granted, the recent events in Paris may yet exert their impact.

Snooper Charter Powers are Increasingly Worrying

Security is one thing, from a virus on your phone or PC to a coordinated breach and remote access that compromises your computer. While we may not want to believe them, they are the things that happen more than anyone would want and as such, people are employed to look out for any risks and report and maybe even fix them. Security researchers are essential in the world where our digital security is as important to many as locking your door. So what does the new law that the UK government want enforced mean for you? For one it’s more than often known as the Snooper Charter, and its powers could be a problem for security researchers and even you.

The typical process for security researchers upon finding a backdoor, something that can give anyone access to your system, is to check your findings with colleagues and make sure that it is, in fact, a security risk, then to alert your client, normally the creator of the software or the owner of it at least. They then report it, get a fix out and then you can reveal to the world that they need to update in order to receive this fix.
Under the snooper charter, though, even so much as revealing a backdoor could be punishable with up to 12 months in jail or a fine. For someone who spends their life finding these flaws, the risk of you exposing one created by the government, could put you not only out of a job but also out of work for good.

If that wasn’t enough, intercepting information, equipment interference (hacking) and retaining communications data would also be protected under gag orders, including those for bulk communications data collection, such as all the emails sent from your home IP.

Granting access to all your information, without having to provide anything for scrutiny. This is made all the worse by that fact that even in talking to your MP, to prove someone innocent of a crime they were falsely accused for or even in the court when you’re being charged using this information, it would become illegal to even disclose that these tactics were used to obtain the information.

With these powers and the charter as it is, not only would the government and agencies have abilities to access and obtain information with little oversight, but you would be unable to discuss or reveal that these activities even took place.